Mercyful Fate lineup: King Diamond, vocals; Michael Denner, guitars; Hank Shermann, guitars; Charlee D'Angelo, bass; Bjarne Holm, drums
Album: Into The Unknown
Producers: King Diamond and Tim Kimsey
Executive producer: Brian Slagel
Label: Metal Blade Records
Q&A with King Diamond on January 10, 1997
Sheila Rene': Good afternoon to the King.
King Diamond: Good afternoon to you. How are you doing?
SR: I'm fine. Boy, you've really been busy since we last talked.
KD: Yeah. Extremely busy.
SR: We last talked on The Spider's Lullaby and you were looking to tour. That didn't happen so in January '96 you started recording two albums. This year Mercyful Fate turns 17 years old.
KD: It certainly doesn't feel like it's that old. You can't really hear that on the album either and that's because the chemistry we have between us is so good. We just love what we do so much. When you can feed off each other like that and still enjoy --even more now than before. It's a little more relaxed and there's not the tension we had back then.
SR: You've all grown in many different ways.
KD: Everyone is more mature and like most bands, if there's more than one songwriter, there'll be some fights on which songs make the album. We surely had our share of that, but it's not a question anymore.
SR: You worked January-February on Mercyful Fate.
KD: Up until a couple of days into March then we started on King Diamond.
SR: Were the songs already written?
KD: Yeah, already finished. We always go in as arranged as it can be but there are always things that change. When you hear things with a different sound we might change them a little and then solos are added. We always have a pretty good idea of where we'll end up. I don't do demoes with full backing. That comes in the studio but I know the feel I'm after. You try out different things and sometimes hit upon something that is much more of the feeling than I could have ever expected. It's a matter of going in with an open mind and to be willing to test and try new ideas from everyone.
SR: On a song like "Listen To The Bell" where Denner writes the music and you write the lyrics, which comes first? Then you work on King Diamond with Andy who writes the music.
KD: Actually Hank wrote that song but Denner wrote "Fifteen Men (And A Bottle Of Rum)" and "Deadtime." They write stuff on their own and record them on four track tape with a simple drum machine and a little bass. They send the tapes to me and I listen to them. It's gotten to the point where Hank knows very much what goes and doesn't go with me. He has turned into a person that can write a song with the vocals in mind. It's much better than in the early days. There was very little that had to be changed on Hank's and Michael's songs this time. It happens often that it could be that the main part of the song is alright but the chorus isn't quite there so we work it out.
SR: Where are they living these days?
KD: They're still in Copenhagen. Hank is spending some time in Denver, but Denmark is his permanent address.
SR: You have heard the voices as in "Ghost Of Change" song, a true story.
KD: It's like describing an old thing that happened but in a new way. I told you the story about incident where we're all sitting around the table and this glass flows up into the air. It has something to do with that. The ghost that came that day could be seen in many different ways. It gives you these two paths you can go by. You're at a crossroad and there's a lot of interesting stuff for you if you want to take the other road or you can stay where you are. At that time I definitely took the new road and experienced a lot of things that I never imagined were possible to experience. In this song, "Ghost Of Change" this spirit or ghost came back to me and gives me another chance to change my path. I'm actually being given the chance to relive my life and as it all passes by I'm sure that I don't need that ghost of change anymore. This is where I want to go and the road that I was shown back then. The self manifestation for me as person and what I believe in and how I see the world as well as the music which you hear on this album. We are where we want to be. We will always hopefully be able to put new aspects into the music, but there is a certain aura and frame that Mercyful Fate belongs in and within that frame there are still a lot of corners that haven't been explored yet. Self confirmation musically and also to the fans because you're not going to hear a disco album or something crazy like alternative. We are what we are and we're not pretending to be anything else.
SR: For the first time you didn't take the offer of a new road.
KD: That's what I feel.
SR: "Under The Spell" you talk about there being something out there waiting for you. How high do you rate fear on the list of emotions.
KD: Everybody likes to experience fear as long as they know that it's going to be okay afterwards. That's why we watch horror movies because we get that thrill and then the feeling of relief. That's what you're looking for...the relief. It's not the real fear while it's happening. That song is very much about people who have a relaxed relationship to religion but there are a lot of people who are hysterical about their religion and won't tolerate anything else. In that song we ask the question --how come you're so sure you're right. It's an inner thing that we can't all believe the same. It's a mockery in a way where I'm standing outside the church and seeing the Holy Ghost with these witches who are partying. This is pretty heavy stuff. It's blasphemy.
SR: In the valley of Blankenstein.
KD: That's a real place in Germany. A lot of stuff in that song is taken from real places. There is that myth that the devil keeps a lot of souls captured in this one lake and if you thrown things in it, they'll come up and turn everything upside down.
SR: For folks who might not know your history tell us about the "Kutula (The Mad Arab Part Two)" on the Mercyful Fate album.
KD: Well, that's a thing that's based around the story of the person who supposedly found this ancient book called the Necronomicin. It's only two songs we've used from that book. It tells of the exciting or interesting things that happened in his life. Was he a real person? Was Jesus a real person? It doesn't matter because it just makes for an interesting story. It's supposedly the guy who wrote the Nicronomicin that Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft got a lot of their stuff from in his writings. Not exactly the story itself but the powers that are described in it. The elders and the ancient ones.
SR: Now the new King Diamond album, The Graveyard. The bio says that the character depiction is so convincing that you'll find yourself feeling that it's perhaps you that's going insane. Every word is true. It's so scary that it's hard for me to listen.
KD: We touched on some subjects that are some of the worst things you can experience.
SR: I appreciate your final note on the album, that if you have experienced anything like Lucy did on the album, call this number.
KD: It happens way too much. It's not just the U.S.A. it's everywhere in this world, the child abuse and the selling of ten year-old girls in Thailand for prostitution. Look at this little beauty queen in Colorado. It's all the time. It makes me so f**king sick to my stomach. I love children so much and to keep hearing about these things happening is too much. It's the same as murder to me. They're getting released sometimes earlier than they should and they go straight out into the world and do the same things again. There has to be a way to fix them so they can't do it again or put in prison for life. The laws are way too soft. It keeps happening and you hear all these smartass people who supposedly get things done, but nothing happens. There's one good thing--that we hear more about it, but that has been the big problem all along that people just can't talk about it. On "I'm Not A Stranger" this guy is right there and at some point you realize that he's a nasty pervert. That's exactly why I want people to get the whole idea here. And then the line..as if I really care and you know it's his daughter. Everyone must realize that it's very wrong. More and more people just don't want to talk about it. All the King Diamond albums have stories that touch very deep on the human mind and human nature. I feel so strongly about it. I'm always 100% behind what I sing about in the studio. You try to put all feelings behind it but this experience was 150%. When I did the ending of "I Am" I went a little crazy and started singing die, die, die. That was a first take, completely spontaneous. When I write these songs I know exactly what the characters look like. I was seeing this guys face. You get so deep into the songs. Some days you can't get that feeling out of yourself. Sometimes I'll be singing and singing and there's not one word worth saving. It's so much a matter of feeling.
SR: Working with a subject matter as ugly as this one is, do you sometimes just have to stop, put it down and walk away.
KD: When I wrote the lyrics for this album, I did many times. You have to write about it in the right way. It wasn't so much the child molestation that I feel so strongly against but getting into this psycho's mind. I had to really figure out the little things that make it real. I have to act out all this stuff which is all written down. It's not spontaneous and I had to catch the right feel of these words. He tries to convince himself that he starts laughing when the words run out. When does he snap and what makes him snap. He doesn't want to hurt the little girl but he plays some sick games with her like when she has to go into the coffin. We discussed that part of the song many times. He wants to bury her because of this game he'll later play with her dad.
SR: It is so real what's happening on these songs.
KD: The first time we heard the screaming from the girl on there Andy and Tim Kimsey both have kids and they became very silent. Nobody spoke a word. I could feel it inside and I finally spoke up for them to play it again. It was so scary that we laughed at that time. We discussed it and played it for a lot of people before we made up our minds about that segment. It scared everyone and so we decided to leave it in...to get the point across better to the listener.
SR: How much did Brian Slagel have to do with the Mercyful Fate album?
KD: A little bit. We do everything ourselves but Brian had some time and I always like his comments. I might not agree with him, but that's not the issue. He likes what we're doing and I like his company. When he comes in it's for the sake of the music. We'll always try new things. He was only around for three days but I'd be the last one not to try out any ideas he might have. He got the first impression of the songs and that's what helps us.
SR: I would be interviewing you much earlier on these albums if Metal Blade hadn't dropped the publicity ball. They dropped the ball when they went from doing their own publicity to an independent. I didn't give up until I found the right person.
KD: The guy they had before was a nightmare. I didn't know him, but he didn't do his job. I talked with Mike Faley and they got the problem solved.
SR: Let's catch up on a couple of things that were in the works the last time we talked. For instance, any more bites from movie companies that might be interested in your work?
KD: Nope. I still wish for that but you have to run into someone who has connections and can get your work discussed. What I would need is someone who's doing good horror films. I do have a contact that I plan to follow up on, but I've been so busy. Trauma Film is one of the best of the lower budget horror movie companies so I'll give it another try. The other day I got a new computer.
SR: What did you buy?
KD: I bought an AST computer.
SR: Are you surfing yet?
KD: No, I haven't had the time. I do plan to get started with e-mail soon.
SR: "Abigail" came to you in a dream. Any more of those happening?
KD: No, not like that.
SR: I want you to get back to me with all the different websites on you.
KD: We do have a guy who runs some chat rooms. Sometimes I spend time on there and talk through him. You can't get into deep answers like I do with you. There's another site I've been told by a guy called Justin. He's supposed to have the best site.
SR: I need to know those addresses.
KD: Okay, I'll work on it.
SR: What's the news on a tour?
KD: We did some dates with Mercyful Fate in the states. We went to Brazil for the Monsters of Rock with 49,000 people. We did four shows in Brazil and one in Argentina and then 20 shows in the U.S. and one in Mexico City. The Mexico City show was the best ever. It was an old opera house with a 3,000 capacity which sold out. It was so cool. We're working on a five week European tour that will be the double headline of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. We'll take it to new territories we've never played such as Hungry, Poland and seven shows in Germany, Holland and Paris. When that's over they're talking about King Diamond going out over here. It's not that feasible or possible to do the double headline shows over here because the sites just aren't there to fit the tour. If you want to put both bands on the same bill it's hard to get the money out of the promoter. He can't put more people in the place and all he could do is raise the ticket prices and I don't believe in that. I expect something to happen around late spring.
SR: Thanks as always for your time on the phone.
KD: Same to you. It's always a pleasure to talk with you.